It has been a drawn-out, rather expensive race and a long time coming, but the 2012 Olympic Games - to be followed in no short order by the Paralympics - are finally here. And although many companies may already be breathing a sigh of relief, some in the channel are reaping business benefits that may continue long after the hoopla and hype have died down.
Ben Davies, managing director of support services provider Comms-care, confirms customers have been asking for more services as well as for partners to formulate plans to cover all eventualities before, during and after the Games. “Partners have approached us to come up with plans to ensure availability is as high as possible,” he says.
He claims end users requiring additional support include a broadcaster working 24/7 throughout the Games. “We increased standby spares, additional engineering tasks and immediate-escalation plans for all key moments throughout the Olympic period,” Davies (pictured, right) adds.
Partners have also asked about collaborative services that maximise their resource efficiency, such as additional on-site engineering, support for staff working from home, and ensuring “hot swap” spare kit is available to businesses in areas most affected by Olympics disruption.
“Most of our project partners across the London area are implementing wide-scale project freezes throughout the Olympics, enabling us to redeploy engineers to provide increased levels of support to those organisations requiring continuous network availability,” he says.
Typical requests have also included tighter SLAs, faster escalation on monitored devices, and rapid 3G deployment packages. Before the Games, the firm relocated its spares holding facility; boosted its inventory and the number of motorcycle-borne rapid-response engineers; and added foot messengers and engineers to access roads closed to non-Games traffic and vehicle sharing, Davies notes.
Comms-care is not the only channel firm adding Games business. Steven Malone, chief technical officer at security reseller Metadigm, says the Covent Garden-based firm has seen a rapid increase in activity over the past three months from customers making last-minute additions.
“We have seen an uptick in demand for new ‘desktop-on-a-stick’ solutions such as Check Point Go, as well as customers increasing their existing end-point security and encryption to cover spare and pool laptops being issued to staff who normally do not work remotely,” Malone says.
Meanwhile, datacentre services provider Vtesse has seen uptake of its special Olympic Games short-term datacentre contracts at its Hertfordshire facility. Nathan Bethell, marketing executive at Vtesse, says a significant number have signed up.
The six-month deals, including co-location and remote access solutions, were specifically designed to help reduce any disruption to businesses operating within the Olympic or Paralympic route networks. Aidan Paul, chief executive of Vtesse, says security and travel limitations render it impossible to do routine network maintenance within the zone during the Games, and datacentre access is also affected.
“We have received considerable interest from London-based businesses that simply cannot let the Olympics risk the continuity of their datacentre operations,” Paul adds.
On good terms
Video communications distributor Imago Group has also seen a business uptick in certain products and services that facilitate remote working or collaboration.
“We introduced a special package for the Olympics,” Ian Vickerage, managing director of Imago, says. “So we can see there has definitely been uptake and we have heard about some of the problems to date around the Games.”
Imago’s partnership with Deutsche Telekom to push its system-agnostic VideoMeet service through the channel has been paying dividends, he confirms, with one key selling point its interoper-ability with everything from high-end Cisco videoconferencing to consumer-friendly apps from Skype and Google.
The other key point is the three-month terms. Since customers in these economically straitened times remain wary of long-term contract lock-in, the very notion of a flexible, short-term contract that can be ditched after the Games - or turned into something more long-term if it suits the customer - is pushing up sales.
“It makes sense, even though it is a new service,” he says. “It will be interesting to see how things develop afterwards.”
Cloud services provider Exponential-e has deployed a temporary media and broadcast facility for Royal Parks in Green Park during the Games, using fast IP connectivity to the BT Tower and other places. But Dave Joplin, head of indirect channel at the company, confirms that customers have also been demanding other services to shore up their capability.
“In a combination of ways, we had a spike pre-Games from channel partners getting circuits in and ready for the Olympics, and on top of that we have had an increase in business where channel partners are getting a chance to maximise infrastructure they had already put in,” Joplin (pictured, left) says.
He adds that its resellers have been successfully upselling additional SSL and firewall products as well as best-of-breed options for security and cloud. Also supporting the infrastructure once it is in place is an obvious area where channel partners should continue to profit even beyond the Games.
“Sometimes you have 27 events being streamed at one time via [BBC] iPlayer. That can simply make 20Mbit/s to 50Mbit/s not that much. If they are not using an application-aware product, the iPlayer can suck all that up, and that affects business-critical applications,” Joplin says.
June, he says, was one of Exponential-e’s best months ever, and that was especially noticeable in the area of channel sales as businesses requested assistance.
“People who specialise in security are being asked for more virtual LANs,” Joplin adds. “And we expect to see this pick up further from the second week, when people might start to struggle.”
Resellers should remain alert and ready to provide a quick fix where customers need one. Afterwards, he agrees, some customers will likely find that the improvements they get from facilitating more remote working, for example, are well worth continuing. VARs that have held customers’ hands and for whom nothing seemed too much trouble during the Games will undoubtedly be favoured by those customers longer term.
Gary David Smith, co-founder of Prism Total IT Solutions, says cloud technology that will facilitate remote working has been only one area where customers have asked for assistance. End-user businesses requested help from Prism with security, storage, backup and business continuity in the event of internet shutdown during the Games.
“We have experienced a huge increase in requests from firms putting home-working plans into force before the Games,” he adds.
That is despite the Cabinet Office confirming to the BBC just two days before the opening ceremony that UK broadband and mobile network provision during the Games will probably prove satisfactory after all. The government had originally warned in February that the nation’s ISPs might not be up to the task of guaranteeing availability during the Olympics.
Businesses, however, have still been advised to speak to their services providers about their individual internet capability within the buildings they use. If a large number of employees live-stream an event to their office computers, for example, connectivity problems may still be experienced, a Cabinet spokesperson indicated.
Chris Papa, managing director of Qubic, which provides communications and cloud services including videoconferencing and group chat, also indicated a increase in demand for its services. “The demand for cloud computing is currently witnessing a rise because businesses, big and small, require easy access to around-the-clock, high-speed and secure communications to ensure continuity during the Games,” he said in a statement.
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